What do Hinterstoderer’s do for Vocation and Avocation?- Chapter 8
Hinterstoder started as a subsistence agricultural village hundreds of years ago. People made a living off the land whatever way they could, cows for milk, cheese, butter, and meat, growing crops that would thrive in the alpine climate, hunting game and fishing from the Steyr. Logging came in as there were lots of pine forests all around. As more wood was needed this became a thriving business. The Steyr provided a cheap means to transport wood out of the valley. In the early 1900’s this was a great business, but not so much for the people that actually logged and transported the wood. This persisted through the war years of both wars. My father took care of many logging related injuries from minor cuts and splinters to major compound fractures and even traumatic amputation of extremities. Even now logging remains a viable source of income.
The bare patches cut in geometric patterns in the forest are from the harvesting of the pine trees. But looking at the same area ca 1910 you will see that, if anything, there are more trees now than a hundred years ago. This is due to the wise and ecologically sound harvesting and replanting programs practiced by the loggers for the last century, before that was the in thing to do, and despite the vast amount of wood taken off these mountains. Logging was and still is a dangerous job. With the very heavy wood falling as it is cut, then getting it down the mountain these logs can reach speeds of 50 mph or more especially in the winter when snow serves as a means of gliding the wood toward the valley. Sleds were also used for the transport downhill when the terrain was not as steep.
If necessary horses were used to pull the load further downhill.
Once the wood was transported to the Steyr, it was stacked and then slowly released into the water to float down to the sawmill that was 20 miles downriver. It was dangerous work with much potential for life threatening injuries. These releases were timed so as not to interfere with the breeding season of the Rainbow Trout, which was another source of food, and income,especially from the tourist trade.
It was another job to keep the logs from jamming up on some rock or just in the natural curve of the river. There was a path along the river called a Flosser Steig for the workers, called Flossers, to run along and unjam any logs that would get cought. The worst scenerio is seen in the next pitcure of the logs going over the waterfall at the exit of the valley and piling up at the base of the waterfall. The kinetic energy, as well as the potential energy that could be released from some of those logjams could be disasterous.
If you can picure the waterfall at its base full of logs that are so enmeshed that they will not float downsteam. They would have to build a barge and come in from the front of the jam to undo the puzzle one log at a time. That would be a Flosser’s nightmare.
Hinterstoder natives love their mountains. They climb them, hike them, decorate the tops of some of the highest of them, and ski down them. There are so many hiking paths, most of them starting in the valley, that lead up to the panoramic vistas that Hinterstoder has to offer.
In 1870 the 25 foot high Iron Cross was raised on the top of the Grosse Priel at 8,251 feet. It was financially supported by many donations including Kaiser Franz Joseph of Austria. In the late 1940’s my dog Hugin and my cousin Severin made it to the top and are both inscribed in the log book that is posted there in a weatherproof metal box. Hugin is memorialized with his paw print. In the early 1970’s my wife, Mary, and I almost got there, but there was too much snow. The path was covered and in order to cross it had used walking sticks and a rope. When the stick broke loose and fell 1000 feet we changed our minds and abandoned the idea of inscribing our names in the book. I will have to be satisfied with looking at photos of the top, like this more recent picture. Although Mary and I did spend one cold night at the Priel Schutzhaus. After we decided not to pursue the final ascent, we returned to the Schutzhaus where there was a modest eating establishment. We had perhaps the most memorable and best meal we have ever had in our lives that evening, along with a pint of the local beer. Mary never liked beer before, and still blames me for introducing her to what beer could be, that night. I don’t know if the long hike and the fact that we had survived the near-death experience of falling down the 1000-foot snow ledge was the main reason it was so tasty, or was it actually the best ever. It really didn’t matter! The Schutzhaus has evolved from a cave first established as an emergency shelter in 1875. It provided an escape from sudden storms that appear unannounced and unexpected. It has served to save more than one life. A recent electrical storm serves as an example as to what can happen.
The next version of the Priel Schutzhaus was more elaborate and it is the one where Mary and I spent one heck of a very cold night.
Now it is a luxurious and centrally heated establishment, but does is still serve the best meal ever? It is on my bucket list to find out.
There are less rigorous and less dangerous hikes, that are equally satisfying. One of the more beautiful spots in the valley is the Polsterlucke.
One of the most photographed and painted spots in the Polsterlucke is the Schiederweiher. Johan Schieder acquired the property in 1887. He decided to dam up an artesian well to make a fish pond two years later and the Schiederweiher came into existence.
Schiederweiher in 1910
A series of paintings of the Polsterlucke by Vladimir Iwasiuk
In the last century Hinterstoder has become a destination for a variety of outdoor activities. Hiking, fishing, hunting, and of course skiing. The aristocracy, the Eulenburgs, then the High Commissioner of Austria, General Mark Clark, then the rekindler of the Hubertus Orden, Albert Messany were the leaders of the hunting sport in Hinterstoder. It remains an important attraction to Hinterstoder, but hiking and skiing both downhill and cross-country have taken the lead as to why people come to Hinterstoder, no small thanks to the world class ski runs with the great facilities like the Höss lift and the great snow that blesses the slopes.
The long scenic loops, surrounded by majestic peaks, are created for the cross country skiers.
Gasthof zur Post in the winter
Gasthof zur Post in the fall.
Gasthof zur Post will always be the “main watering hole” in Hinterstoder. It was where my father always stopped after a house call for a beer and to check in, to see if anyone was looking for him, or needed him. It was his answering service before there ever was such a thing. Gasthof zur Post was owned by the Pichlers, friends and great supporters of my father. Herr Pichler was an army veteran who had seen much turmoil and death in the war. The job of running the Inn was well deserved, quiet and peaceful. His son Hans Jörg was a school mate of mine, eventually running the family business. He was the class clown, always angling for the laugh. Unfortunately, later in life this did not help him. He was a bit fond of the fast life and that is what ended it in a fiery crash. His sister then inherited the business. She was older than her brother and me. A charcoal of her rendered by my father shows her cherubic nature which still inhabits her face even today 65 years later. There are numerous restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, agritourismos, and just rooms for rent that have sprung up to supply the ever-growing demand of the tourist coming to Hinterstoder. Some are plain and simple, while others are luxurious and fancy but the first one, Gasthof zur Post, still remains my favorite. This has become one of the main businesses of Hinterstoder, the maintenance and feeding of tourists.
Siglinde Pichler age 4
One other old Hinterstoder classic is the Jaidhaus. The current house was built in 1528 by Thomas Jaidhauser, who was a serf at Spital am Pyhrn Monastary. It was a tavern then and the family has kept it that way almost 500 years. Through the centuries the name changed to Hackel, through marriage and inheritance, but are still Jaidhauser descendants. The Jaidhause has been a staple of Hinterstoder places to get typical Stoder dishes, prepared perfectly along with a stein of beer. My father tells of many gatherings of the locals there for food and fellowship during World War II. One story he told is about an accident where a German officer, who happened to also be a physician, took the curve around the Jaidhause too fast and hit a young girl on her bicycle. She sustained a laceration of her face and also a fracture of her jaw. The doctor / officer was not at all contrite, and was dismissive of the injuries he caused by his carelessness. My father attended to the girl, suturing the laceration and splinting the fracture which in the case of the jaw is done by wiring the bottom teeth to the top teeth. This puts the fracture in alignment until it heals. Turns out the good doctor had more problems than speeding and being a dolt, but he was also a narcotic addict. That was the reason he was speeding, to get to his stash of drugs for a fix, not an uncommon problem even then.
The streets are now well maintained and for the most part paved throughout town. But in the 1930’s that was not the case. Traffic became an increasing problem and raised a lot of dust. It was then that Stoder streets were oiled to keep the dust down. The Jaidhause had the first bus business here with their initial rendition of public transportation.